Living With Affenpinchers.

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Affenpinschers With Children Affenpinscher Personality All About Miff. All About Mavis. Conclusion.
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Our Affenpinschers
We have kept affenpinschers as pets for about eleven years now. They always retain that slight degree of independent aloofness so they are not a dog to be dominated, rather a partner in life. We have had three over all these years, two dogs and a bitch and each had a totally different character but with a common sense of independence. This is a dog owners view of this breed that may be of help to others thinking of this breed as a family pet.

Introducing Ami
Our first dog was called Ami, seen in the two pictures above. He had the classic affenpinscher shape, a round barrel chest standing square on short stout legs. Strong shoulders and stout neck are slightly disguised by the lion's mane of hair. The head was always held proud and alert with a high cranium complimented with well-shaped ears that flop down a little. But what catches the attention is the eyes, well spaced above a short snout and prominent chin giving the classic look of this breed, that of a monkey "affen". Yes this is of German origin and the name affenpinscher comes from its German name monkey terrier.

This dog can certainly look very much like a small monkey mostly because of the twinkle in those dark brown eyes coupled to that little snout. It's just as if they know they look like a monkey because they spend their whole life behaving very much like a monkey. That's where they just always retain that special sense of fun and charisma.

Well, Ami also sported the classic rough black hair coat that doesn't need much attention, rarely needing to be cut, easily maintained with just a little grooming. He stood about 30cms high and 50cms long with a well proportioned waggy bit sticking out the bottom end. (In the UK we don't cut off affenpinscher tails, and there is a lot of pressure to stop tail docking dogs altogether). In most cases they lose their wiry hair so the coat stays at about the right length but Miff does not molt, his hair just keeps on growing and is a bit softer to the touch than usual. Affens tend to go gray in older age, starting in the face and back of the neck at about five years old. This graying spreads until they can look old and tatty by about ten. On average they live to about thirteen years old.

Affenpinschers With Children
So what was he like as a pet? Well all dogs are different, even within a breed but I would first like to talk about the common factors. This is a toy dog generally about the size of a cat but the smallest affenpinscher is half the size and weight of the largest affenpinscher. Unlike a cat, their frame is stocky and rigid, much less flexible. This I feel makes them a little fragile when it comes to living with small children. We have not had any accidents with our children hurting the dogs but we always discouraged the children from picking them up, it's so easy to drop an affenpinscher. If you ever did drop one I get the impression the legs would be very vulnerable. So the point here is your young child could quite easily hurt your toy dog.

What about the dog hurting the child then do I hear you say? All three of our affenpinschers have been perfectly safe with our children but they wont stand much nonsense from them. If the child goes too far they are not averse to giving a little nip. This very rarely breaks the skin but has brought a few tears over the years. It serves to teach the child how far they can go so on balance I feel it's good for your children to learn to understand a dog in the safe company of a pet affenpinscher.

As with any dog, watch the health aspect, especially important is worming every year, keeping the garden clean and discouraging the dog from licking the child. It's just common sense really. On balance I feel the benefits of an affenpinscher with your small child outweigh the risks. A point to make is that the dogs seem to develop a close bond with the child and can be quite protective towards it.

Our eldest son was about twelve months old when we got Ami and they were great together. However, Ami was bad when we were out walking with him, especially with children. The problem was that he looked very appealing to a child and they wanted to stroke him but he would always snap at them if they touched him. This was without doubt his biggest fault and we always had to be careful to warn people against touching him. This was an unfortunate peculiarity unique to him, our other two affenpinschers are absolutely trustworthy with people in the street.

Ami's second fault, right from being a puppy, was that he was very difficult to feed. I know, any affenpinscher owner reading this will find this almost impossible to believe but it's true. I think this was a problem or symptom that was connected with his early demise. Without doubt this really was exceptional, in this breed you have to control the amount they eat because an affenpinscher does not know the meaning of full up!

Affenpinscher Personality
A very good thing about affenpinschers I've found with all three of our dogs, is that although a great toy / lap dog, they don't know that they are a toy when it comes to walking. They are quite capable of coping with as much or as little exercise as their owner, making them a very versatile breed. In our experience, these dogs are not prone to chewing your slippers, furniture, childrens toys etc. they may do it a little as puppies but this hasn't been much of a problem.

An affenpinscher craves affection and tends to adopt one in the family as their leader. If there is a knee available, your affenpinscher will want to be on it, although they tend to wander off again after a while to find a more comfortable spot to sleep. With two or more together, one cannot stand the other getting any attention and will barge in unashamedly. We had a cat with Ami and he would not allow the cat to get any attention what-so-ever while he was about. The cat was already middle aged when Ami arrived as a puppy, they always got along with each other very well.

Affenpinschers love to play, not so much doggie games like fetch the ball or stick but more to rough and tumble as they would do in a pack. They run about barking but seem to draw a line at fetching a stick, as this is a bit below them. Our three all have their individual preferences although Ami was not so interested in playing around. He was altogether a more serious, reliable type. He knew his own mind, sometimes whilst out walking in the local woods, he would just head back home when he had had enough and there was no stopping him.

We regularly used an open sports car to get around in and we usually took him with us. He could be left in the open car with complete certainty that he would come to no harm and would not get out the car. A strong trait with these dogs is that they are fiercely territorial, their home or car is to be defended vigorously. Their preferred defense is to bark and they are all pretty good at that. If you choose an affenpinscher then you must accept its going to bark like crazy at every invasion into its territory. Seeing off the postman is a high point in an affenpinschers daily routine that is hard to suppress. They will even tend towards biting a stranger entering the house, especially if they are not dog aware. If a person makes a threatening gesture then his card is marked for life, they never seem to forget they hate this person. All this adds up to a dog that can be considered a jolly good house guard dog, or a damn nuisance, depending on you personal point of view.

Ami was a super affenpinscher, quite well behaved, a good-looking example of the breed, fearless and affectionate. But he was to come to a tragic end. At just five years old he started to occasionally vomit white foam. This baffled the vets, nothing could be done to find the cause or slow his deteriorating condition. We didn't know that this dog would soon be dead and nothing could prevent it. He died a few weeks later of a brain disease, something very like mad cow disease. Most of his life he ate raw meat, he simply refused to eat cooked food and he mostly ate raw lamb.

This loss was a devastating time for us all and we had to make the decision. Should we abandon dog keeping because to loose a pet so young in such an awful way was very unpleasant, or put that behind us, remember the good times together and get a puppy replacement as soon as possible?

MiffMiffMiffMiffMiff MiffMiffs in his New Haircut.

Introducing Miff
Life moves on and we opted for a new puppy dog that we called Miff. Getting an affenpinscher puppy is not perhaps quite as straightforward as most breeds because they are quite rare in the UK so you have to travel to find one and wait for the breeder to have one to spare. We knew the breeder of Miff quite well because we had been to see her dogs when we bought Ami but she had no puppies at the time and so had referred us to another breeder. This time around we waited for one of her puppies. Her dogs are kept in a domestic environment and its great to see them acting naturally as a pack should. We regularly leave our two with them when we go on holiday and its quite remarkable to see how readily accepted they are back into the pack, even after month away. One charming special feature of the affen personality is that they make little grunting noises when happy very much as a cat would purr.

Miff had been bred with an American sire that had been imported to increase the gene pool in the UK and also as the American versions are a little larger and stronger legged this was to be included in the Brit. versions too. The result, in Miffs case, is that he is too big, even dwarfing his dad but he is a gentle giant being a bit of a coward. With the other dogs in the pack he is always being snapped at because he is a bit of a pest but this doesn't worry him. Typically for this breed he is very dexterous with is front paws. They use them in all sorts of very expressive ways like holding things and other dogs down or putting both paws around your neck. Another use for Miffs paws is climbing, he certainly is a champion at this. He can climb virtually anything he puts his mind to, even a ladder is no problem for him.

He has developed one fault when walked in public, he attempts to attack any stranger dog he sees so has to be kept on a lead in public places. This is understandable because he was a sociable happy go lucky puppy of about six months when a black Labrador attacked and bit him for no reason. This misfortune was followed a few months later by his being attacked again by another dog not on a lead that left him very rattled. Then to cap all this he was attacked again by two Jack Russell's that ran out of their garden when a gate had been left open. After this Miff seemed to make up his mind to attack any dog he sees before it attacks him and I must say this seems to work as they all get the message and keep clear. I must stress he is not at all aggressive and I'm quite sure he would never bite a person, not even our vet.

We have not done a lot to train him so he can't do much in the way of tricks. He will, however, come when called without any problems, he is also quite well house trained. Any attempt at further training causes him to flop onto his back with his legs in the air. For a pet dog an affenpinscher in my opinion is fine but probably a little more difficult to train than average. Miff is always fed before Mavis and by following this routine strictly, they don't steal each other's food. If you have another dog or cat and get an affenpinscher then strictly forbid it stealing the others food because they are really pigs in disguise and can easily get overweight. So Miff is now eight years old, still a puppy at heart. He likes the outdoors not caring about bad weather, always a little crazy but with a very big heart and totally loyal. He certainly is a good companion. His favorite games are to run after a ball (but not bring it back), to be chased around the garden and to pull on things.

MavisMavis MavisMavis at 15 months MavisMavis 8 years MavisMavis 8 years

And Finally Mavis
We had had Miff for about a year when for some reason we got the idea of getting an adult dog as another pet for us and a companion for Miff. For the life of me I can't remember the reasoning behind this but whatever is was it has worked out to be an excellent idea. I had contacted our friendly affenpinscher breeder and asked if she had an adult affenpinscher she no longer wanted to keep for breeding / showing. Much to my surprise she was willing to part with "Mavis Higgins", a bitch with real championship potential but she had gynecological problems and as such for a young dog had a long but unproductive life ahead of her.

She arrived as a much more serious well balanced dog than Miff probably as a result of her life so far as part of a pack. They quickly settled down together though and have developed a very close relationship with strict rules. For example, they have a mock fight most mornings, Miff is the boss, they never sleep close together by choice and they are both unashamedly jealous of each other. The two together make a good pair and if left alone for a while I am sure they make excellent company for each other.

Surprisingly, Mavis is the braver of the two despite her diminutive size at just 10 inches tall and 12 inches long. She will bark like crazy if anything invades her territory where if something looks like a real threat to Miff, he goes strangely quiet. She also loves her food, as a treat they get the occasional Markie dog biscuit. Please take my advice NEVER give your affenpinscher your biscuit's or tit bits at the table because their love of food will turn them into an absolute pest if you do let this habit become established.

Although she craves attention, really enjoying being petted or sitting on your knee, it's all about you doing what she wants. She has a very selfish streak with her independent nature. Yes she loves to be made a fuss of but on her terms and when she wants it. When she first arrived, she was really reluctant to play, for example Mavis would never be rolled onto her back. Over the years she has relaxed so that if in the right mood she becomes an absolute clown. Her favorite game is to chase after our children's mechanical toys, she is not so interested in chasing balls or playing pull and seems to get very worried if you try to play chase with her in the garden.

Mavis at 6Mavis at six years

Advantages. DisAdvantages.
Ideal size for small house and garden. They tend to bark at visitors more than average.
Generally they can be trusted with small children. They could be hurt by small children handling them roughly.
Easy grooming. Their coat goes gray starting at about five years old.
They don't cause damage by wanting to chew things. Watch their teeth for build up of tartar.
They are normally very easy to feed. They tend to over eat.
They eat relatively little so are not expensive to feed.  
They are devoted to their owner and very loyal.  

In Conclusion
Over these eleven years we have always been delighted with our affenpinschers. If you want a toy breed, small in size with a big personality then surely you won't be disappointed with an affenpinscher. If you think this breed will suit you then I suggest you visit one of the breeders with a list of questions and points of discussion. I'm sure you will get an honest opinion because these dogs are so rare in the UK, the breeder will not have a problem finding a suitable home for all their puppies.

Don't get one if you have to leave it alone all day while you are at work, its not fair on such a sociable dog. An affenpinscher puppy should not be given too much exercise. They need plenty of rest in their first year so that their body shape and physique can develop correctly. I think this is an important point often overlooked, ask your breeders opinion.

When Miff and Mavis visited the vet last October for their vaccinations and checkup, the vet was concerned about the build up tartar especially on Miffs teeth because his gums were becoming infected. The vet warned that an anesthetic was necessary with a slight danger of a bad reaction, he especially thought it wise to clean Miffs teeth before he got much older as age increased the risk to his health with bad teeth and the possibility of a bad reaction to the anesthetic also increasing with age.

I was worried about the risk of this treatment, so for several months I tried hard to get them to chew things and so clean their teeth naturally. To cut a long story short, this made no noticeable difference so in July 1998 Miff went in for the day. The vet cleaned is teeth with an ultra-sonic system and checked his ears at the same time because I noticed he was shaking his head quite a bit, although there was no infection visible. I am relieved to say he suffered no ill effects and it is amazing to see his brilliant white teeth now (he had to have three removed). He also had a deep ear infection that has responded well to treatment.

We never give our dogs sweets, just dog biscuits. They now both get a special biscuit that is hard to chew as well as other bone like treats in an effort to stop this problem in the future.

Questions Section
I decided to add this last bit in response to the contacts and questions I have received since posting this page. Its mainly intended to add questions and answers that may be of interest to other visitors to this site. The first question that has prompted this is from Kerry in Australia who asked if we had found them to be difficult to house train as she had heard they have a difficult reputation in this area.

We got Ami and Miff as puppies at around twelve weeks old and I wouldn't say I noticed any difficulty house training them compared to my memories of other breeds in the distant past. When Ami became an adult he was completely trustworthy, perfectly clean. Miff was no problem initially and would probably have been as good as Ami but for Mavis...

Mavis was already an adult when we got her and having lived with plenty on other dogs she could get away with being lax in this area. She took quite a bit of firm encouragement to pee outside reliably but gradually accidents became quite rare. However, if she wants to go in the garden and we are a bit slow letting her out she is likely to do it indoors and if she does, Miff can't resist peeing on top for good measure. On the whole, we have not experienced much difficulty with house training other than perhaps leaving them alone indoors a long time together. Miff does have one annoying habit related to this though. If the children have garden toys outside, the toys are an irresistible target for him, which is none too hygienic for the children.

All the text on this site is purely my own observations and opinions, they are not based on any research whatsoever. You are welcome to copy and use any part of this page if you wish.

The latest addition is "Nancy's Notes". These are well worth reading to further understand the attractions of this breed.

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